The future of prescription drug prices? It’s up to Trump to make the right call.

(SC Small Business Chamber President & CEO Frank Knapp is also the co-chair of the American Sustainable Business Council.)

CRAINS Chicago Business
June 26, 2017


We are all focused on Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with new policies that will result in millions of Americans paying more and getting less. But there is another health care issue that also needs attention: the future of prescription drug prices.

President Donald Trump has on several occasions indicated that he wants to lower drug costs, and for good reason—60 percent of Americans believe that addressing the high cost of drugs needs to be a priority for Congress and the president, and nearly 25 percent of Americans have gone without the drugs they need due to the cost. I welcome his commitment to reducing the prices of drugs and truly hope that Congress can work with him to accomplish that laudable goal.

However, it is critical that President Trump pursues policies that will help everyday Americans AND not further line the pockets of prescription drug corporations. Recent reports indicate that his advisers are pushing him in the wrong direction, but there is still time for him to choose the right course.

First, we need to understand the problem. The drug pricing crisis cannot be attributed to a single bad actor or a few blockbuster drugs. A recent study by AARP found that 97 percent of widely used brand-name drugs had a price increase that exceeded inflation in 2015. U.S. prescription drug spending reached a record high of $425 billion in 2015, with expectations that such spending will surpass $600 billion by 2020. Drug costs continue to outpace the growth in overall health spending.

There is not a family in America that has not been impacted by the rising cost of prescription drugs—whether they’re struggling to afford their prescription, had their insurance premium increase due to rising drugs costs, or seen more of their tax dollars pay for prescription drugs covered by public insurance programs.
Additionally, American taxpayers have invested millions in the development of countless prescription drugs, and yet we have no control over how those drugs are priced.

Second, we know what will work to actually lower drug prices and, just as important, what won’t. We need to increase drug price transparency, both for drugs that are coming to market and those that have been on the market for years. I’ve introduced legislation, the Fair Drug Pricing Act, which would require drug corporations to document why they’re raising the price of their drugs that are already on the market.

This important legislation has been endorsed by AARP and the American College of Physicians, among others, and is an ideal place for us to start pulling back the curtain on why drug prices continue to rise.

We know that Medicare is getting a “raw deal” when it comes to prescription drugs—which is why consumer organizations like the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare and associations like the American Sustainable Business Council have endorsed allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, like the VA does. In fact, President Trump has called for this and discussed it with my colleagues Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Peter Welch when they met at the White House. In addition, recent polling shows that 72 percent of Americans support this reform.

We also know what won’t work—allowing prescription drug corporations to set the agenda just as they have for decades. We know that providing them with additional government-sponsored monopolies or making it harder for lower-cost drugs to come to market will only help prescription drug corporations—not patients. The president needs to stand up to those corporations and put an end to their abusive practices.

I share the president’s goal of lowering drug costs for hardworking families, but his actions must match his words. It’s up to him to pick the right prescription and finally reform our broken drug pricing system.

Jan Schakowsky is the U.S. representative for Illinois’ 9th Congressional District.

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